UPI's Capital Comment for April 3, 2002

By United Press International  |  April 3, 2002 at 8:12 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 3 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

On the comeback trail -- Former 2nd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Tommy Robinson is reportedly telling people he will shortly announce his candidacy for the 1st district seat currently held by Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark. Robinson was first elected to the House in 1984 as a Democrat and joined the GOP in 1989. He gave up the seat in 1990 in a failed quest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

If he runs, Robinson is the second former congressman who will be on the hustings in Arkansas this year. Former U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Ark., is angling for a rematch against Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., who defeated him by just over 4,000 votes in 2000.

Thuner or later, he had to go there -- Rep. John Thune, R-S.D., who is giving up a safe House seat to take on incumbent Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson in November, says that President George W. Bush will visit Sioux Falls, S.D., on Thune's behalf April 24.

"It's a tremendous honor to host the president and we look forward to making his visit productive and informative, for him and for South Dakotans as well. We have a lot to be proud of here in South Dakota and I'm pleased the president of the United States will get a first hand look at all we have to offer," Thune said.

The Johnson-Thune race is expected to be one of the most competitive in the country. Thune chose to make the race, rather then run for governor, after the White House -- which wants to net at least two new GOP senators as a result of the fall election -- pressured him to make the change.

That didn't take long -- Rumors are floating around Washington that former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, the reasonably new chairman of the Republican National Committee, may be planning to bolt from party HQ after the November election. If true, and we doubt that it is, he will have barely stayed around long enough to unpack his memorabilia and hang it on the walls.

Allen good time -- New Jersey Republican Rep. Jim Saxton, becomes the first member of his state's congressional delegation to declare a preference in the upcoming GOP senate primary. He has signed on as the chairman of state Sen. Dianne Allen's campaign.

Allen, a former television news anchor in Philadelphia, is one of several people competing for the nomination including former federal Independent Counsel Robert Ray, Essex County Executive Jim Treffinger and Assemblyman Guy Gregg.

There are those in Washington who argue that Allen, an abortion-rights liberal Republican in the mode of former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, is the party's best chance of beating scandal-tainted Democrat Sen. Bob Torricelli in the fall. But unaligned conservatives in the state don't think so.

"The party people in Washington are asking Senator Allen if she would vote for Trent Lott to be majority leader in the Senate. What they ought to be asking here is 'Who did you vote for in 2000 -- Bush or Gore' and are you going to back Bush next time? If you look at her voting record, Allen is a lot closer to Gore across the board then she is to George W. Bush," a source tells Capital Comment.

An uphill battle -- The historical record is not on the side of Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., as she seeks to be elected to the Senate on her own this fall.

Writing in the Kansas City Star, Kevin Miller points out that "In the last half-century, 45 appointed senators have run for election and only 18 have won. ... That 40 percent is less than half the success rate elected incumbents enjoyed."

Gov. Bob Holden, D-Mo, appointed Carnahan to the seat after it was declared vacant in January 2000. Carnahan's husband, former Gov. Mel Carnahan, was killed in a plane crash while campaigning against the incumbent Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo. Holden promised voters that he would appoint Jean Carnahan to the seat should her late husband outpoll Ashcroft in the election -- which he did.

As Miller says, some of the giants of the Senate first arrived there courtesy of a gubernatorial nod -- including the late Sen. Sam Ervin, D-N.C., former Vice President Walter Mondale, D-Minn., and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine. But there were also a number of appointees whom the voters didn't ask to stay around.

These include former Sen. John Seymour, R-Calif., whom GOP Gov. Pete Wilson appointed to succeed himself in 1988; former Sen. Bob Krueger, D-Texas, whom Democrat Gov. Ann Richards put in the Senate in place of Lloyd Bentsen; former JFK press secretary Pierre Salinger, who served in the Senate from California for a brief period; and former Minnesota Democrat Gov. Wendell Anderson, who appointed himself to the seat given up by Walter F. Mondale when he became vice president.

Just in time -- In January of this year, we are told, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party announced the promotion of "veteran Democratic operative" to the post of party communications director. The move probably came just in the nick of time -- the news release that is posted on the party's Web site is dated "January 15, 2001." Perhaps a new Web master will be the next hire, now that the state committee is firmly behind the primary candidacy of Auditor General Bob Casey.

And the ward goes to... -- The Wilbur Awards are given "to outstanding secular media entries that feature religious issues, themes and values," according to their sponsor, the Religion Communicators Council.

For the second year in a row, the group has chosen NBC's "The West Wing" as the Best Television Drama. Other winners in the television category include ABC News 20/20 for a segment called "Sins of the Father" (national news); WTXF-TV, FOX Television, Good Day Philadelphia for "A Gospel Rap Pioneer" (local news); Showtime for "Snow in August" (television film); and Bulldog Films for its PBS television documentary "In the Light of Reverence" (national documentary). Wilbur Award recipients are given a stained-glass trophy. The awards are named for Marvin C. Wilbur, a pioneer in the field of religious public relations.

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